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Bariatric Surgery Benefits in Georgia Decreased to Save Money

Georgia Eliminating Weight Loss Surgery Coverage for State Employees

A recent story from CNN has raised the eyebrows of the team here at New Life Center for Bariatric Surgery. There are currently six states that do not provide coverage for weight loss surgery for state employees. Georgia is about to become the seventh. The CNN story on Georgia’s decision to end a benefit to state employees that helps pay for bariatric surgery procedures discusses the possible ramifications of such a decision.

The story introduces us to Alice, a retired public school educator insured through the state of Georgia who weighs 305 pounds and suffers from a variety of comorbidities (obesity-related health conditions), including high blood pressure, arthritis, acid reflux, and sleep apnea. She has tried 10 to 12 different weight loss programs, and decided that weight loss surgery may be her best option. However, as the CNN story reports, high costs are causing changes in state medical coverage in Georgia, and starting in January, the state won’t pay for weight loss surgery – leaving Alice not enough time to complete pre-surgery requirements.

The story goes on to report the fact that Georgia has paid about 30 million dollars for an estimated 1600 people to get weight loss surgery over the last 2 ½ years. A CNN legal contributor, who has had weight loss surgery, says it would be more expensive for the state not to cover the surgery because of the costs of treating patients who develop obesity-related conditions such as diabetes, sleep apnea, acid reflux, and other life-threatening afflictions.

Six other states don’t fund weight loss surgery for state employees. Reporter Elizabeth Cohen says Missouri did fund the procedures, then stopped funding, then restored the benefit because they say they realized they were saving money in the long-term from reducing the threats that co-morbidities can cause.

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) has activated a Rapid Response Team, along with the Obesity Action Coalition, to talk with Georgia state representatives and work to reverse the action.

If you would like more information on the health benefits of weight loss surgery, please contact Dr. Stephen G. Boyce.

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